A new study from Edinburgh University, UK, has shown how the treatment and management of a patient’s cancer pain can be improved by a simple bedside chart system.
The Edinburgh Pain Assessment and management Tool (EPAT) is a pen and paper chart which medical staff use to regularly record cancer pain levels in a simple traffic light system.
By using two levels of pain, amber and red, to indicate moderate or severe pain, it prompts doctors to review medications and side effects and monitor pain in a more intricate manner.
Monitoring pain levels
In the trial, pain levels of nearly 2,000 cancer patients were monitored over a five-day period, following admission to regional cancer centres.
Patients whose care included use of the chart reported less pain during this time, compared with patients with standard care, who did not show evidence of improvement.
The authors suggest that the system works by encouraging doctors to ask the right questions and look closer at pain medications and side effects on a more frequent basis.
‘Influencing doctors’ behaviours’
Professor Marie Fallon, of the Palliative and Supportive Care Group at the University of Edinburgh, said: “These exciting findings show the important benefits of influencing doctors’ behaviours, rather than looking for more complex and expensive interventions.
“These findings are a positive step towards reducing the burden of pain for patients and making them as comfortable as possible at all stages of cancer.”
The possibility of controlled cancer pain
Martin Ledwick, head information nurse at Cancer Research UK, added: “In most cases it should be possible for cancer pain to be controlled if it is assessed and managed effectively.
Any work that encourages medical teams to assess and monitor pain more carefully to help this happen has to be a good thing for patients.”
Pain affects half of all people with cancer and an estimated 80% of those with advanced cancer, causing both physical and emotional impact on patients.